As I watch the Tony Awards at home in Sydney, Australia on a rainy, stormy day – as always from a distance to those major events that my family was involved in – I am inspired to post this series of photos of my cousin Irene Mayer Selznick with her sister Edie.
Edie and Irene were, of course, the daughters of Louis B Mayer and the world was their oyster. Edie married well and I will write about her soon, but Irene chose the mercurial, genius filmmaker David O Selznick. From what I gather it was a fraught marriage, which resulted in my cousins L. Jeffrey Selznick who was devoted to film restoration (died suddenly in 1997) and Daniel Mayer Selznick who was involved in both film and theater.
In many ways I was inspired by my cousin Irene, who was considered one of the foremost historians of Hollywood and Broadway, to take up the role of informal family historian. In 1983 she published her autobiography A Private View. She wasn’t terribly kind to the family. But that was her view and certainly she was in the thick of it.
But today’s posting is about Irene’s amazing theater career, which by now many have forgotten. Here’s a ridiculously brief summary: In 1947 she worked with playwright Tennessee Williams and director Elia Kazan and produced her first play, A Streetcar Named Desire, which gave Marlon Brando his break-out role. The play’s success brought her a great deal of respect, and she went on to produce four more plays, among them 1955’s The Chalk Garden for which she received a Tony Award nomination.
Irene Mayer Selznick died of breast cancer in NYC on October 10, 1990.
An amazing woman and as always, my distance is both geographical and generational…
Irene Mayer’s memoir:
The original Tennessee Williams’ novel:
A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)
Copyright Alicia Mayer 2012.